In this shiny, ultra-modern digital world we barely give a second thought for electricity; the most versatile, dynamic form of energy. To consider its origins and practical use, most would look no further than Thomas Edison; rock star inventor who gave us the phonograph, motion pictures and electric light bulb. But do George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla spring as readily to mind?
The Current War tells of innovation and the desire to generate light with electricity. The story begins in the 1880s as Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) strives to perfect the direct current method. He illuminates Manhattan with a spectacular show. However, financier J.P. Morgan (Matthew Macfadyen) isn't satisfied and wants to power a new industrial age. Edison pleads for more time knowing fellow inventor George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) is working on a system using the alternating current. Both believe their system is superior and feel their opponent’s system is dangerous. Immigrant engineer Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult) works initially for Edison but they cannot agree on the right method. The gifted Tesla approaches Westinghouse and finds a kindred spirit as they plan future ventures. The battle lines are seemingly drawn as Edison and Westinghouse fight for supremacy.
The film is beautifully shot bearing all the hallmarks of executive producer #MartinScorsese with characteristic flourish. A strong storyline packs real punch as necessity and innovation meet head on. Some may baulk at a dusty history lesson; but it represents true drama; human ingenuity that transformed millions of lives. Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent value as Edison; but at times feels little more than an extension of Sherlock and Alan Turing (from the Imitation Game), all characters grappling with genius; a curious mix of arrogance and eccentricity that seems to pretty much nail it. Michael Shannon as Westinghouse is in complete contrast; calm and granite like in demeanour he becomes a useful antidote to Edison's periodic outbursts. Katherine Waterston plays the wife of Westinghouse with a surprisingly contemporary edge. As Margueritte, she is the confident woman behind the man and atypical for the period depicted.
The Current War is an entertaining, highly watchable canter through a unique period in history. It strives to make the audience wiser; and for all the talk of Apollo 11 wasn’t this truly a giant leap for mankind? In spite of its delayed release and associated angst it remains a solid piece of #filmmaking.